Writing about Family

Today is my brother’s birthday. Sam is four years younger than me and was my first best friend. He and I are lucky to have such a close relationship. Even so, writing about family is not easy.

Here are a few pointers so you are still invited to Thanksgiving.

  • Know your purpose: Are you trying to show the world the person you know? Work through some struggles? Or are you writing for revenge? Writing shouldn’t be meant to hurt someone.
  • Be compassionate: It may not be easy if you’re exploring an abusive relationship, but accessing the writing via compassion will open up the narrative to more than anger and pain. Despite the ins and outs of family relationships, each member is also a person. A key to writing a whole character is understanding motivations.
  • Consider using pseudonyms: If you are writing about real people, it’s often best to change their names so they are not as easily recognizable to those who may know them. This is definitely the case when writing about sensitive subjects. You’re balancing your rights as an author with the individual’s rights to privacy.
  • Practice writing from a family member’s perspective: Explore your topic through the eyes of someone else to understand different angles and emotions.
  • Prepare for reactions: The person you wrote about—even if it was a glowing representation—may not be thrilled about being featured in writing. Or he or she could be over the moon. If you approached the work fairly, hold true to what you know. This is your story as well. Being vulnerable may bring you closer together.

Sources: Writer’s Digest, Marion Roach, Underdown


Speaking of writing about those you love: send us your essays! We can’t wait to read your creative approach to our Modern Love Challenge!